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Jimmy Fallon's Big Adventure

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"The one thing that I'm trained to do that the other hosts aren't is I'm more of an entertainer," Fallon says. "I come from a Saturday Night Live background, so I'm used to doing sketches and singing and dancing and doing impressions, and playing guitar, so I should use that to my advantage without being too hammy."

At 36, Fallon is, by far, the youngest of TV's late-night hosts - 11 years younger than his Late Night predecessor, O'Brien, seven years junior to his direct competitor, Jimmy Kimmel. That puts him, and much of his staff, on the younger end of Generation X, but they deliberately chose to embrace the sensibility of an even younger cohort. "Gen X was about the idea of separating yourself from the mainstream," says Late Night producer Gavin Purcell. "It's cool to be part of a bigger thing now. You can do something on the Internet that happens suddenly and is giant and exciting. We kind of feed off of that idea, but not with any sort of irony - we really, genuinely feel excited."

If that's Gen Y thinking, then Fallon was simply born slightly too early. "When he says, 'I'm so excited! So-and-so's coming tomorrow!' he absolutely means it," says Juvonen. "When he says, 'The beautiful, the talented,' he 100 percent means it. Even though he might say that about a lot of people, it's very genuine. It's exactly how he's feeling at that moment. If we're going out to dinner, he can't wait! He loves it there and loves that waiter and can't wait and wants to go back and visit the waiter. It is totally all day long, every day."

Embedded in the ceiling of Jimmy Fallon's corner office on the sixth floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza is a giant plastic pickle - a gift from O'Brien, who, in turn, received it from David Letterman's writers when he took over the show from Letterman in 1993. The rest of the decor is Fallon's own, though. He's a sentimental dude, so the Oriental rug and wooden desk are remnants from his first Manhattan apartment. A stained-glass portrait of Buddy Holly hangs on one wall (Fallon, who was an altar boy and, pre-puberty, considered the priesthood, has a thing for stained glass).

Radiant-looking photos of Juvonen are everywhere - including a wedding-pic shot on Richard Branson's private Necker Island in the Carihbean, where it was just family and Drew Barrymore - along with pics of Fallon's sister Gloria and her kids and a shot of his parents on the streets of Brooklyn just after their wedding. To the left of two vertically stacked flatscreen TVs is a framed photo of Johnny Carson, looking cool in a blue blazer that matches the Tonight Show curtains behind him. Dr. Oz has taken over the studio that O'Brien used for Late Night, and Fallon uses one next door - which happens to be the studio where Carson filmed The Tonight Show before moving to Burbank. Fallon loves telling people that Tiny Tim's famous 1969 on-air wedding occurred in his studio.

Eight months ago, Fallon was standing outside his office when he heard that NBC's late-night schedule was about to be blown up: He learned the network hoped to move Leno back to 11:30 p.m., O'Brien to 12:05 a.m., and Fallon all the way past 1 a.m. He was relatively unfazed. "Is there a difference? I'm on at 12:37 now," he says. "They think I don't know about the seven minutes after 12:30?" In the end, he stayed at 12:30, and took few lessons away from the debacle. "Conan's working, Jay's working. What's the big deal? Whatever. You're on different networks now. Very good. Is everyone calm now?"

Fallon looks away from his iMac, where he was sending tweets about today's show, and glances out the window by his desk - it overlooks the giant red Christmas balls that just reappeared by the Rockefeller Center skating rink. "The balls are back in town," he sings happily, to Thin Lizzy's melody. "I'm very excited. That means the holidays are here."

The flatscreens serve as computer monitors, too, and Fallon drags a video file onto one of them and clicks "play." It's a proposed bit for the show: footage from Sarah Palin's reality series of her shooting a caribou in the snow - the production team has added a glowing red nose to the animal. Palin killed Rudolph! Fallon watches, aghast. "No," he says.

"Too sad? Too gross?" asks the show's head writer, A.D. Miles. Fallon nods, still looking deeply shaken - he hadn't even noticed the red nose.

Fallon and his team head down the hall to a tiny, cavelike editing room to watch a rough edit of a recurring sketch: "Reflections With Justin Bieber," in which Fallon dons a wig and hoodie to play the 16-year-old pop star - the running joke is that he's unexpectedly concerned about, and well-schooled in, current events: "Y'all want a job in 2030? Y'all better learn some Mandarin!" fake-Biebs says in this one.

When Fallon sees himself in close-up under bright sunlight, he snorts, half-disgusted, half-amused. "I look nothing like Justin Bieber," he says. "It's an old man with a Bieber wig … an old man with makeup." Amy Ozols, a writer for the show, smiles and rolls her eyes. "You're a 36-year-old man playing a teenager - I don't know what to tell you."

Ten years back, Fallon was a not-quite-Bieber-level teen idol in his own right. His life had changed dramatically in 1998, when he blew up as a featured player in his fourth SNL episode, after unleashing his musical parodies (he sang still-funny, if now-dated, Halloween-themed versions of songs by Counting Crows, Alanis Morissette, Matchbox Twenty and Marcy Playground) and a hilariously accurate Adam Sandler impression - which Sandler himself approved after Fallon did it for him over the phone. "It just crushed - it couldn't have gone better for me," Fallon recalls. "I was getting phone calls from people wanting to do movies, wanting to meet with me, phone calls from actresses and peo ple who wanted to date me, fan letters - it was crazy, absolutely nuts." He still has his first 100 fan letters somewhere - he keeps meaning to send the writers some kind of gift for giving him an ego boost - but there was also danger in all the sudden acclaim: "You start thinking you're awesome, when the truth is, you're not."

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